And The Beat Goes On
Just two short years ago, Ubisoft gave birth to a simple dancing game called Just Dance. It was so simple, in fact, that it received poor marks and heavy criticism across the journalism board. Despite that, in turned into a retail success, luring throngs of Wii players. We all halfheartedly awaited another technical failure with Just Dance 2, but it surprisingly earned a higher grade thanks to tighter controls and more features. Just Dance 3 expands even more—not just in terms of content, but to more consoles as well. Just Dance 3 is now available for Kinect and Move owners on the Xbox 360 and PS3, respectively.
With a large song selection from the get-go, hopefully you’ll find at least a couple that pique your interest. However, in a game that tries to cater to multiple generations, the list could have used some refinement, and a little extra effort may have produced some more universally recognized songs. Of course, the biggest pool is made up of club songs from the last couple years, with artists like LMFAO, Taio Cruz, Cee Lo Green, and Just Dance’s unofficial poster girl, Katy Perry, offering their big hits. Player’s born before 1990 may find a more limited selection from their era, but a few classics like A-ha’s “Take on Me,” Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “I’m So Excited” from the Pointer Sisters broaden the scope to the 80s and beyond. Then some real oddballs make it into the game. Trying for a global appeal, you’ll find a song called “Kurio Ko Uddah Le Jana,” and I can’t even fathom what “This Is Halloween” from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is doing here.
Fortunately, more songs will be available, thanks to the reappearance of the in-game Store. Each download will cost a few bucks, and it looks like a new set of four will be available every week. Hopefully, in time, the library will offer a decent variety of genres, but it may cost you a fair penny to customize your personal playlist.
With regards to playlists, Just Dance 3 does a good job sorting genres. When you’re ready to dive straight into dancing, you can scroll through each song or let the game’s playlist group your favorite style into a mix. There’s Pop! Pop!, Rock Party, R&B Vibes, Just 80’s, Around the World, and several other choices. You can even choose playlists with extreme difficulty, sweat, or for groups. However, the menus aren’t perfectly accessible. I haven’t found any rhyme or reason to the song layout in the main screen; it’s not alphabetical, nor arranged by release date or difficulty, and with no way to sort them, it becomes a tedious process to make a song selection.
Once you get started, though, you’ll find the mirrored neon silhouette onscreen, clad in a variety of clothing and costumes depending on the songs origin and music video influence. Perfecting the routine, or even attaining a passable attempt, requires several repetitions of the song. Ubisoft tried to soften the learning curve by scrolling stick figures of upcoming dance moves at the bottom of the screen, but they only succeed in confusing you more. Depending on how well you move, or, more accurately, how well your Wiimote copies the moves, you’ll receive acknowledgments in the forms of “OK,” “Good,” and “Perfect,” or a nasty little “X” if you miss. You’ll also build a score meter and obtain stars, which fills your Mojo (more on that later).
Thankfully the motion registry is pretty accurate, and you won’t launch the controller at the television out of frustration due to clumsy responsiveness. And the Wii version may be the most forgiving of the three console offerings. The Kinect system will score the entire body’s movement as opposed to just the hand motion, making it far more challenging. And since Just Dance 3 does not make use of the WiiMotion Plus, the Sony Move may be more refined, which also means it will more easily register mistakes.
If you’re looking to burn some calories, then grab your loose t-shirt, leg warmers, and a bottle of water, because the Just Sweat mode with satiate your aerobic needs. You can do a Free Session or 7-Day Challenge, but each will track your Sweat Points, which you can use as a personal target. The 7-Day Challenge offers three intensity settings, with a daily and weekly Sweat Point goal to reach. It’s a decent motivator, especially if you’re looking for a reason to play solo.
But like the previous games, Just Dance 3 is best played in the company of good friends with no inhibitions about making fools of themselves. Duets and Quartets are available on certain songs, adding harmonizing moves for some cool group choreography. Of course, any solo track can be played with up to four people, and a few even allow a group of eight to heat up the room, as long as you have ample space to groove.
Ubisoft has added some extra incentives to keep you drenching your favorite shirt with perspiration. This comes in the form of unlockables and medals. Unlocks are gained after obtaining the previously mentioned Mojo stars. After racking up fifteen stars from a few dance rounds, your prize will be revealed and available. Most of the 27 unlockables come in the form of Dance Mash-ups, which blend different dance styles into one song, the even more challenging Smart Shuffle, and the eight-player Flash Mobs. But the first you’ll unlock is called Simon Says, which is exactly what it sounds like. While going through the dance motions, you’ll suddenly be prompted to stop, shake, clap, or spin to gain a sizeable bonus. The clash of the dance and the minigame breaks a lot of the rhythm, but it’s also the easiest way to score five Mojo stars every time. So if you’re looking to quickly unlock everything, keep doing what Simon says. The medals won’t be as easy to collect, but getting those bronze, silver, and gold awards are great for bragging rights and personal glory. A few are obtained just by persistent playing, but some require near perfect scores on every song, and others can only be acquired with the help of friends (who also need to be adept dancers).
It’s hard to imagine Just Dance 3 pushing the neon visuals further than its predecessor, but your eyes are completely bombarded with orange, green, blue, and purple fluorescents. It may seem like a bit much, but following the onscreen avatar has never been easier. The backgrounds are hit-or-miss, depending on the song, with some capturing the theme of the lyrics and others just displaying bland geometric shapes pulsating to the beat.
The sound resonates perfectly throughout, as it should considering this is a game about music. Each track is crystal clear, and Ubisoft used proper technical skills with the in-game Dolby Digital—so much, in fact, that even substandard stereo TVs can crank out a smooth sound. The virtual cheering section and other effects are nice, but subdued as to not drown out the music itself.
A few extra unlockables, some medals to earn, and a cardio mode may not seem like innovative alternatives, but remember that Ubisoft plainly puts their intentions for you in the title: Just Dance. This official third version tightens up the core aspects with bold visuals, responsive motion controls, and crisp sounds. And with weekly additions to the song library available for purchase, you can always count on some fresh vibes and a new playlist for your next party night.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.1 Graphics
The bold colors add to the energy of the dance, but they’re still rather simple, and some of the backgrounds are boring. 3.5 Control
The motion controls for the Wii are tightest the series has seen. Oddly enough, scanning the menus with conventional controls is the frustrating part. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Every song sounds great, even if you’re not a fan of the artist. A few watered down effects bring the perfect score down a couple fractions. 3.4 Play Value
Unlockables and medals add some replayability, but it’s still just about the dancing. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best